Let’s Review: Lots of crazy things distract in ‘Up Here’ at La Jolla Playhouse
Every day many of us talk to ourselves, listen to advice on the radio or TV, or to our own voices swirling around in our heads. That’s the premise of “Up Here” with book, music and lyrics by Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award-winning Robert Lopez and his wife, Kristen Anderson-Lopez.
Their experience on Broadway shines through this world-premiere musical comedy directed by Alex Timbers at the La Jolla Playhouse, which includes five main actors and an ensemble cast of 19, an extravagant stage design, bold musical numbers and costumes that would be revered at Comic-Con.
Dan the Computer Man (Matt Bittner) has been called by Lindsay (Betsy Wolfe) to fix her computer. The minute he sits down she’s stuck on him like peanut butter to bread, popping in and out of her kitchen to ask him questions.
Dan — who starts the play by singing his life history to date — gets more excited by the pretty blonde each time she comes out of the kitchen. Gathering around Dan (and supposedly invisible) are these good and bad, crazy, sub-consciousness creatures who want to advise Dan on his thoughts about Lindsay.
Soon Dan and Lindsay are dating.Surrounding the table of the coffee shop, the big rock in the park or wherever they might be, are these costumed “thoughts” in Dan’s mind that sing, dance and are very loud!
For a while, things look good, but then Dan gets talked into doubting Lindsay and she takes up with her former boyfriend, Ed (Nick Verina.) Meanwhile, Lindsay’s challenged brother, Tim (Eric Petersen), shows up at her house and life becomes more complicated for her. Tim has lost his job and the love of his life, his former boss, Tina (Zonya Love).
The idea of a romantic comedy about someone’s dueling consciousness is interesting, and the cast members playing the roles of Dan, Lindsay, Tim, Tina and Ed do a great job, but there are so many elements kidnapping the idea, it feels like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” or a rock concert.
The music — many, many songs creatively written by the Lopez team — is very deafening and the words are often lost in the noise. Adding to that is a profusion of profanity, which some in attendance told me was overdone and offensive to them.
There are also sexual terms, and props that are compared to sexual organs, which drew laughs from the younger crowd but not the more mature patrons. Such poor-taste gags weren’t needed and stalled the flow of the story.
One exceptionally entertaining cast member is 9-year-old Giovanni Cozic (another reason why, to me, the profanity and sexual elements don’t feel right). Cozic walks out on stage several times to talk about the rock in the park and its real function. He’s aware of the romance between Dan and Lindsay, and offers his advice often. He’s quite the charmer.
A production of this story that was shorter, less busy and with wittier words that don’t offend, might have been better suited to the diverse audience.